5 Traits of the Modern Online Grocery Shopper
Believe it or not, American grocery shoppers have been “sold the dream” of how online grocery shopping could enhance their lives for more than two decades. While the original startups peddling that dream crashed and burned in the dot-com bubble, today’s online grocery retailers and service providers have focused on providing achievable value propositions. Though online currently represents a small fraction of total U.S. grocery spending, that’s changing fast, with 2018 e-commerce sales increasing 35.4 percent over the previous year.
With more and more consumers using digital channels to order their groceries, the demographics of this customer base are growing more diverse every second. However, there are a several groups of modern online grocery shoppers that seem to be driving a majority of the growth in this sector. This article will explore research regarding five common traits shared by a majority of online grocery shoppers.
Value Time Savings
Compared to the traditional shopping experience, one of the biggest value propositions for online grocery is the time savings. In fact, a recent Valassis report found that the top reason consumers shop online for groceries is to save time. Today’s shoppers have tremendous convenience at their fingertips – no more long trips to the supermarket or wandering aisles to find particular items. Many aspects of the grocery shopping experience can now be done more efficiently online, including:
- Research: Online shopping simplifies the process of comparing products and prices.
- List Building: Digital prompts and voice assistants make it easy to add items to personalized shopping lists.
- Checkout: When shopping online, you can check out in seconds and don’t have to wait in line.
- Transportation: Home delivery eliminates the need to carry grocery bags to or from your vehicle.
- Repeat Purchases: “Subscribe and Save” programs and automated shopping lists based on previous purchases make it easy to reorder commonly used products.
While buying groceries is just a click away and time savings are beneficial to busy customers, it does take time to learn new shopping behaviors. Avid online grocery shoppers have noted that time savings become more apparent with increased familiarity of the process and the different grocers’ online ordering interfaces.
Population density within the top 50 largest U.S. cities has consistently been growing, making urban grocery shoppers an increasingly influential demographic. Urban dwellers in densely populated locations face unique challenges when grocery shopping in stores. Online grocery shopping solves many of these pain points. According to a recent report from Acosta, urban shoppers are 90% more likely than the average shopper to rank online capabilities as one of the three most desirable features in their grocery shopping experience.
It’s not hard to understand why urban shoppers gravitate towards online grocery if you consider the fact that many of them do not own vehicles. This forces them to make more frequent, smaller trips to the store since they must walk or utilize public transportation and can’t carry a large number of items at one time. With online grocery delivery, it’s much easier to purchase a larger number of products at once, and it’s also easier to buy bulk items like multipacks of toilet paper, as well as heavy products like cases of soda.
If urban shoppers do own vehicles or have access to car sharing programs, they usually have to fight against traffic and busy grocery stores at peak hours. In fact, around two-thirds of urban shoppers surveyed by Acosta felt that grocery stores are too crowded and checkout time is too long.
Online grocery shoppers exhibit a high propensity to shop from multiple online retailers. In fact, FMI’s 2019 Grocery Shopping Trends report found that frequent online grocery shoppers shopped an average of 8.0 different retail banners in the past 30 days, compared to 3.6 for people who never grocery shop online.
This behavior can be attributed to a variety of factors. First, according to FMI, today’s households are eating in increasingly personalized ways in order to meet the diverse dietary needs of all family members. This challenges the traditional food shopping experience. Rather than making one weekly trip to the local supermarket, shoppers must visit several different specialty stores to get everything they need. Online grocery shopping inherently makes this process easier, as it eliminates the need to drive from store to store and wander the aisles looking for what you need.
At the same time, on-demand delivery platforms such as Instacart and Shipt are increasing in popularity. In a recent survey by retail firm Field Agent, 17% of online grocery shoppers said they use Instacart to complete their purchases, while 7% use Shipt. These platforms make it even easier to shop from a variety of grocery retailers, surfacing all available stores in one easy-to-use interface.
Millennials have been the earliest and heaviest adopters of online grocery shopping. As the first digitally native generation, they’re much more comfortable researching and buying products online than previous generations. In fact, FMI found that 45 percent of Millennials shopped online for groceries in 2019, compared to just 18 percent of Boomers. Gen X is catching up fast, with 40 percent shopping online this year compared to 29% last year.
There are a number of characteristics that make Millennials the ideal target market for online grocery, including:
- Millennials overwhelmingly prefer click and collect to home delivery services, and major grocery retailers such as Walmart and Kroger have aggressively expanded their pickup services this year.
- Millennials are most likely to use a smartphone for online grocery shopping, and recent advancements in mobile apps from leaders such as Amazon, Target and Walmart has made this process easier.
- Millennials are at the prime parenting age, and a recent survey found that more Millennial parents shop for groceries online than all parents combined.
Online grocery shoppers are interested in saving money. According to the Valassis’s Coupon Intelligence Report, 65% of use coupons always or very often, versus 45% of all consumers. Online grocery shoppers also enjoy discounts for enrolling in retailer “Subscribe and Save” programs. By putting their frequently purchased items on autopilot ordering, shoppers save up to 15% on retailers like Amazon.
Comparing prices between multiple retailer websites before making a purchase is another way online grocery shoppers save money. Additionally, online loyalty and coupon sites, such as RetailMeNot, Rakuten, and many others, have made it even easier to save money with web browser plugins and smartphone apps that search the internet for available deals and automatically apply them to orders.
Today, the online grocery shoppers who are driving the most channel growth are retailer-agnostic Millennials who live in urban areas and value time and cost savings. Brands that want to use this channel to increase sales would be wise to tailor their marketing strategies, including product content and images, to customers with these unique characteristics. As more grocery retailers enhance their e-commerce capabilities and make it easier to shop online, this customer base is likely to become even more diverse. As a brand, it’s imperative to keep a pulse on these shifting demographics to ensure you’re leveraging the right marketing tactics for each channel.
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